Living with Yourself review: Paul Rudd's Netflix comedy delivers the laughs — and food for thought

Rohini Nair

Nov 25, 2019 12:51:28 IST

The following post contains spoilers for Living with Yourself season 1.

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There's probably an essay to be written (if there isn't one written already) about how male and female clones are depicted in pop culture. Having extensively examined cloned characters in films and television shows — by which I mean having looked through a few IMDb and Wikipedia entries in desultory fashion and relying on some hazy recollections — one may come to a conclusion that clones, when female, seem to either a) be the handiwork of men looking to recreate some ideal woman that they either 1. Lost tragically or 2. Never 'had' at all; or b) be powerful heroines (or villainesses) working for some usually secret higher cause.

I'm sure clones, when male, too fall into these categories, on occasion. But there's a third, situational category, one that I haven't seen female clones in — that of the harried individual struggling to meet the demands of work and home. (A sub-category replaces the adult with a male teen/child.)

The 1996 film Multiplicity, starring Michael Keaton, had that premise: an overwhelmed dad clones himself so that one of him can manage the professional end of life, and the other, the filial. Apparently, even two of them aren't enough to juggle an average modern American life, so he creates more clones, each with a distinctive personality, leading to a comedy of errors.

You see the problem with having a woman as the protagonist in Keaton's place of course? Keaton's character's dilemma is one the vast majority of them deal with day in, day out, and seem to get by without any friendly, handy clones to pitch in.

 Living with Yourself review: Paul Rudds Netflix comedy delivers the laughs — and food for thought

Aisling Bea and Paul Rudd in a still from Living with Yourself | Netflix

Now we have another pop culture product that builds on a similar idea as Multiplicity: Netflix's Paul Rudd-starrer Living with Yourself. Fortunately, its clever title isn't the only thing going for this comedy series.

First, the plot: Rudd plays Miles, a struggling copywriter at an ad firm. At one time, he had a splendid life, excelling at work, happily married to a talented architect, Kate (Aisling Bea), with whom he lives in a big suburban home. But the years have worn him down, as have Kate's and his struggles with getting pregnant. On the verge of losing a big client at work, Miles takes the advice of a co-worker, who tells him about a pricey miracle spa that will rejuvenate him, make him into a new man. Desperate to try anything that will help bring him out of his funk, Miles takes money out of Kate and his fund for infertility treatments, and heads off to the spa, where he is promptly anaesthetised, waking up to find himself…buried, underground, in a forest, clad only in a diaper and copious quantities of cling film.

On making his long and cold way home, however, Miles discovers that that isn't the most surreal experience he'll have that day. For, comfortably ensconced in his house, inhabiting his life, is a splitting replica of him — a clone.

Miles and Miles Clone must quickly come to grips with their situation, especially if they're not to alarm Kate or cause any suspicion at the ad firm. Miles is not too keen on keeping his Clone around to begin with, but the latter's success with an all-important client account makes him rethink his position. What's not so comforting is the Clone's ability to charm Kate; the Clone is everything Miles used to once be and no longer is, and is just so much better at navigating the various facets of Miles' life.

The episodes are narrated first from Miles' viewpoint and then the Clone's. One of the best episodes, however, is narrated from the point of view of Kate. It's interesting to see how she perceives Miles and their relationship and life, as also her articulation of how a couple's equation changes over time, as it encompasses not just love and joy but also anger and loss and resentment — and why that bitterness may still feel preferable to a rosy new beginning.

As Miles and the Clone try out a delicate balancing act to keep their secret safe, the titular challenge of "living with yourself" plays out. Each finds the other insufferable, wants what the other has. They each confront the question of which one of them is real, and what makes him so. As the Clone deals with his doomed love for Kate, Miles himself is forced to face the fact that he's made a right hash of things. Miles and the Clone's misadventures are played for laughs, but there's also a smattering of poignancy and philosophy in there, and the climax — fisticuffs between the two men (or the same man, or two different versions of the same man) is as symbolic as it is literal. It's a fight to see which iteration of Miles will win out.

Rudd and Bea have a sweet and easy chemistry that makes you root for them as an onscreen couple. And Rudd plays both beat Miles and upbeat Clone with all the likeability you associate with him. You'll sympathise with the Clone and berate Miles, and surprisingly, find yourself empathising with the larger issues surrounding their predicament. Could the show be funnier, sharper, crisper, more insightful? Undoubtedly. But it still has a charm, imparted entirely by Rudd and Bea.

In conclusion (and conclude I must, since I have no clone to write this while I binge-watch yet another Netflix offering) Living with Yourself is just like its leading man: laidback, low key, and overall quite engaging.

Living With Yourself is currently streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer here —

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Updated Date: Nov 25, 2019 20:33:45 IST